October 4, 2006

Cornell’s McLLU Attracts Students

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As October begins, many students begin a stressful hunt. Phone calls are made and newspaper ads are scoured. Although it may only be the beginning of a new school year, it is already time to find an apartment for the following school year.
Other students wait for spring, which marks the season of the housing lottery. This too, though, may bring anxiety, as students hope for the number that will get them the perfect room on West Campus.
However, other options do exist, such as one of Cornell’s ten Program Houses. Although each program house requires an application, the search for a trustworthy realtor and risk of a low lottery number are both eliminated.
Beyond providing a living place, program houses offer a unique environment among Cornell’s campus. Each program house focuses on a theme, ranging from theater to ecology and music to diversity. According to Natalie Cook, residential hall director of the Multicultural Living Learning Unit, program houses allow students to express a specific interest.
“The program houses promotes gathering of groups of people who have a passion about a particular thing. Risley is for people who have a passion for performance. McLLU is about sharing backgrounds. Ujamaa is for people with an interest in African-American culture,” Cook said.
For instance, McLLU provides students an opportunity to fulfill a desire to learn about other cultures and interact with diverse students. The halls of McLLU resemble those of any other residential building. The walls are a dull brown, signs with student’s names hang upon the doors and fliers are posted among the bulletin boards.
Unlike other residential buildings, however, it offers a program focusing on other cultures each week. The goal is of these programs is to allow students to increase their awareness and learn about their peers.
“The mission is to open up dialogue about cultural background differences,” Cook said. “There are so many interesting things people bring to the table that we don’t find out about if we don’t have these discussions.”
This past Sunday, the house held a program centered around Jewish learning. The residents sat in a close circle, as the rabbis from the Chabad House at Cornell enlightened the students on Jewish culture by sharing honey cake for Rosh Hashanah and answering questions.
McLLU offers a unique setting for these discussions because students come from across the globe. Some of the residents this year are from the Caribbean, South Korea, Africa, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.
It is these interactions that attracted Ade Majekodunmi ’09 to McLLU.
“The forum discussions are really enlightening,” she said. “I feel more aware of my surroundings and other people’s beliefs, even if I don’t agree with them.”
Nicholas Calder ’10 had a similar experience.
“It’s amazing. In every floor we have different cultures,” Calder said. “Each room is not the same. … Stepping from room to room is like stepping a boundary, a distance, an ocean. It’s the only way you can learn.”